I often get asked about how I prepare for a newborn session and if I have any photographer and client tips and tricks for making your first newborn photo session a success.
Newborns are sweet and squishy, so who could resist photographing them? No matter how many times I send over my session FAQ's and advice pages, I still have many clients who come to the newborn studio unprepared and admit that they thought, “It can’t be that hard, they just lay there don't they?” But once they have arrived and as you begin to prepare for their newborn session, they soon realise just how challenging their little bundle of sweetness can be.
Setting the stage
My shooting space needs to be warm! I generally set the thermostat to around 24°C in the studio shortly before the family arrives. This gives me time to adjust to the temperature rather than walking into a furnace right from the word go, it warms up slowly in my little studio and clients barely notice the temperature rising. Warmth will help the little one from having splotchy skin, and will keep baby snuggly and warm as I work through the session. I have mummy or daddy feed the baby, or top him/her off as soon as they arrive. This usually helps everyone settle in for the session, and baby will start out with a full tummy which should get your new born photo shoot off to a great start. During this time I like to take this opportunity to ask parents if baby is predominantly breast of bottle fed, how does baby tend to sleep during the mornings (although they are still very much unpredictable at this early age), whether or not baby takes a soother and maybe what shots they have in mind. A lot of this has already been sent to me via my online contact form but it's nice to go through these questions again once clients arrive to me and I'm putting the kettle on! I keep a white noise maker handy from Baby Shusher, this will help lull baby to sleep and keep them from waking easily while I am working with them.I tend to set it to either the Shuuuuush or heart beat and then once baby is completely completely settled change it to the doppler womb sound, and then slip it under the beanbag blanket or basket stuffers so it’s near baby but out of the shot.
Keeping it simple
I tend to keep props, set ups and poses to a minimum for your newborn session – remember, simple is beautiful! Although it may be hard to reign in all your exciting ideas, just remember that one or two beautifully photographed set ups are so much nicer than your baby being posed in a multitude of rainbow colours and props. You don’t need a million props to create stunning photos as the baby is the focus after all. I adopt the less is more strategy and will relieve a lot of the stress and perhaps most importantly, allow me to capture stunning images for your gallery. Awake is not always bad
What if baby won’t sleep? Don’t stress over it, I tend to use it to my advantage. Whilst of course I prefer most of my shots to be of baby sleeping soundly, I usually try to take advantage of an alert baby by getting a few shots with their eyes open. Parents tend to love these, so don’t worry if your newborn baby won’t sleep, I take advantage of that alertness and get some great images of those wide eyes. Be patient, they will have to fall asleep at some point, it's nature!
I always use my camera strap when standing over babies, or any client for that matter. This will prevent my heavy camera from dropping near to baby should it slip out of my hand for some reason. I may ask mum or dad to hold back my strap, hair or clothes during a shot so that they don't fall into shot but most of the time I try to have everything tied or stepped up in advance.
I'm 5 foot 5 inches and often find that for parent shots I am shorter than everybody else in the room other than the baby. I always stand on a sturdy stool or chair when standing over baby or when photographing mum and dad so just be mindful that I may need some safety space to shoot.
If I elevate baby in a basket, bucket, or on a bean bag, I am sure to surround the area beneath the baby with pillows when possible. I use a spotter (usually parents) or an assistant if baby isn’t 100% stable, or cannot maintain the pose on their own. Quite often many of the poses you see require a well positioned finger from either mum or dad if my assistant isn't on hand, so be prepared to get involved!
I wash my hands often, you will see me do this a lot, the studio is full of sanitiser. I try to avoid touching my eyes, nose and mouth during a session. If you feel like a cold is coming on, please reschedule! I cannot stress enough how important it is that you and baby are well before you come to see me. Passing an illness onto a newborn with a low immune system is never worth any photo session. The first two weeks after birth is typically the best time for your photos, but if you have to wait out an illness you won’t miss out on the newborn window entirely, I have had just as much success with three week old newborns as I have the ten day old babies.
Have fun with it, well that's what it's all about isn't it? If things didn't go quite as planned and your baby wouldn't pose into the shots you were hoping for, don't worry. Manage your own expectations. Each newborn session is unique so have an idea of what you would like to capture, but understand that depending on the mood of your baby at that given moment, you may or may not be able to capture those specific dream images you had envisioned. Just stay positive and try to go with the flow, although we may not get baby into the bucket you originally had in mind, I will get something beautiful! And most importantly, enjoy it, these special first newborn weeks will be over before you know it!